Frayed Page 109

She moves off to one side of the dance floor. I can\ help staring and begin to move closer and her eyes widen as she watches my every step. People cross the space between us, but I don\ notice their faces;I only see her. She runs her hands down her arms as though she\s cold. I increase my stride to be by her side faster. But once I\m standing in front of her, my words catch and stick in my throat.

A mix of emotions crosses her face, but she seems to settle on confusion. My mind, on the other hand, is still spinning with what to say, how to say it. Shit, Casanova I\m not.

She\s the first to speak. ’’What are you doing here?’’ A tear leaks from her eye and flows down her cheek. Her voice doesn\ sound accusing or angry;it\s soft as though she\s genuinely surprised to see me.

My hand goes to her face and I gently wipe the tears away. ’’You invited me.’’ I give her a slight smile, trying to make light of the situation, make light of the fact that I haven\ called her in a week, that I\m about six hours late, that I didn\ pick her up that I\m an ass**le.

’’I can\ do this,’’ she says, and rushes away.

When I follow her exit with my eyes, I also notice we\ve got the attention of her mother, stepfather, brother, and Dahlia. Her mother starts toward the door, but I step in front of her and say, ’’Please let me.’’

Jack takes her hand.

’’Let me make this right.’’

Charlotte steps aside and with all eyes on me I head toward the closed door of the bathroom. My stomach is in knots as I lightly tap on it.

The door cracks open.

’’What are you doing?’’ I ask her as I take a step in and she takes a step back. It\s a small bathroom just like the men\s two stalls, one sink, and a mirror.

’’Why are you here?’’ she asks again, dropping her eyes.

I move closer still. My pulse pounds so fast I can hear it in my ears. ’’I wanted to see you. I missed you.’’

’’Why? I was such a bitch. I don\ know what came over me. I feel ridiculous about the way I acted. Pushing you for more that wasn\ there.’’

I lift her chin toward me. ’’S\elle, look at me.’’

I continue speaking once she raises her eyes to me.

’’You were not a bitch. And there\s more. I was the dumb ass who didn\ understand what you needed because I couldn\ see what I needed. I let you walk out because of it. But I\ve had time to think about it and I know what I want.’’

Her eyes sharpen. ’’What?’’

’’You. I came here for you.’’ Finally I manage to say something that makes sense. Sweat coats my brow and I draw my hand back to loosen my tie because I feel as if I\m suffocating. I\m so f**king nervous. She\s not saying anything. Maybe I\m too late?

’’What do you mean?’’ She steps closer to me. Her warm breath whispers across my skin. The heat from just that slight contact makes my body buzz.

I press my forehead to hers. ’’Can we talk?’’

She nods but quickly pulls away. Her eyes flash over my face and I\m certain that what she thinks she sees isn\ how I feel. This has to be one of the hardest things I\ve ever done. I\ve been so closed off in my own life I haven\ really allowed anyone in. She\s the closest I\ve come, but now I know it wasn\ enough. Obviously it wasn\ .

I look around at the small space. ’’Somewhere that isn\ the women\s bathroom?’’

Her slight smile gives me a little bit of hope, but it gives way to a swallow, as if she\s trying to hold back the tears. I try to pull her to me, but she pushes me back. It takes all of my willpower not to struggle with her. I want to comfort her, just hold her. But I\m not sure how she\ll react if I push. I know my chances are running out;they should have been up already. I want to do this right, so I opt to guide her out of here. My hand finds the dip in her back and with just that slight touch I\m electrified. Every inch of her seems to draw me in. She fills me my body, my mind, my soul, and my heart.

I open the door and try hard to avoid the stares of her family huddled together on the edge of the dance floor. I whisper in her ear, ’’We have an audience.’’

She shakes her head. ’’Give me a minute. I\ll meet you at the elevator.’’

With my hands in the pockets of my suit pants, I rock back on my heels and wait for her. She\s just a few feet away with her family gathered around her. My breath comes in stuttered pants until I see her hug her mother and head toward me.

’’I\m ready,’’ she says, her voice surprisingly much calmer.

I press the DOWN button at the only elevator servicing the rooftop. We enter along with two other couples. I stand behind her, and heat fills the large gap between us.

’’You did a beautiful job planning the wedding,’’ one woman compliments Bell.

’’It was breathtaking,’’ the other throws in.

’’Thank you,’’ is all she says, and I notice her hands are trembling.

I grab one and then the other as I stand behind her. She doesn\ flinch or pull away until the doors open. When they do, the four older people in front of us vacate the space quickly, calling good-bye over their shoulders. I follow right behind them, taking the lead in front of her, and finally feeling my stride, I slink back to grab her hand.

’’Where are we going?’’ she asks.

’’I want to show you something.’’

’’I thought you wanted to talk.’’


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